Cactus Makes Perfect

Greetings, readers, from the Mojave of California!

This blog marks the end of my fourth (!!) week working as a Botany Intern for the Needles, CA BLM Field Office. The majority of my time so far has been spent wrapping my mind around our field office– a whopping 3.2 million acres. On top of that, a large portion of the field office has just been designated as Mojave Trails National Monument by President Obama, and I feel fortunate to be here in a time of such dynamic transition.
Palo verde blooming in Whipple Wash

Palo verde blooming in Whipple Wash

I have found (as I had suspected) that the desert is often mischaracterized in places outside of the desert. I’ve spent the majority of my life in the green of the Midwest, and the perception of the desert around those parts is that it is bleak, void of life. I’m here to tell you, readers, that this is not so.
Hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus engelmanii)

Hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus engelmanii)

Myself and my fellow intern, Jessica, will be working on sensitive and invasive plant monitoring, so we have been familiarizing ourselves with the plant families of the Mojave and the species we will be looking for. I have also been becoming reacquainted with GIS, which I am very excited to use a lot throughout my internship. This past week, I helped digitize a trail in our field office, and created a trail map and brochure for future hikers visiting the Turtle Mountains. I hope to continue to develop my GIS skills in the next few months.
How cute is Coryphantha chlorantha?!

How cute is Coryphantha chlorantha?!

The past couple weeks, Jessica and I have been able to get out in the field and start looking for sensitive plants. It’s a bit challenging right now, as we are still familiarizing ourselves with the plant communities of the Needles Field Office, but we’ve already had a few successes. So far, we have recorded populations of Saguaro (Carnegia gigantea), Hairy Blazingstar (Mentzelia hirsutissima), and multiple populations of Desert Senna (Senna covesii) and Desert Pincushion (Coryphantha chlorantha).
Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia)

Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia)

One of the highlights of the past few weeks was a trip out to the Turtle Mountains Wilderness to spend time with a service trip from the Sierra Club. Many of the participants have been involved with the Sierra Club for upwards of 40 years, and have been in conservation even longer. It was inspiring to hear their stories and accomplishments, especially from the women who have paved the way for women in conservation like myself and my fellow interns. One participant shared a quote from David Brower, the first executive director of the Sierra Club: “Polite conservationists leave no mark save the scars upon the Earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground.” This is something I am thinking about.
Our mentor, Lara Kobelt, pointing out the trail to Sierra Club members.

Our mentor, Lara Kobelt, pointing out the trail to Sierra Club members.

Happy trails,
Kate Sinnott
Needles Field Office
Bureau of Land Management

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